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The recent MLB trade deadline is being described in terms of what the Big Three franchises did or didn’t do by July 31st. So let’s take a closer look at that.
What the Big Boys Did/Didn’t Do
The Houston Astros added two quality starting pitchers in Arizona’s Zack Greinke and Toronto’s Aaron Sanchez, as well as several other reserve pieces. Most importantly, throughout their many deadline deals the Astros kept their top two prospects, OF Kyle Tucker and RHP Forrest Whitley.
In baseball terms, I believe that would be what is commonly called “hitting it out of the ballpark”.
On the other hand, the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees are being exorcised for their lack of participation in 2019 trade deadline activities. Which isn’t quite accurate.
The Dodgers added two players that fit perfectly into their multiple matrix attack plan.
Don’t underestimate what RP Adam Kolarek can bring to LA’s bullpen. Kolarek has held lefties to a .531 OPS this season for Tampa Bay, and MLB’s Mike Petriello noted that Kolarek has the fourth highest ground ball rate in the Majors this year.
Grabbing IF Jedd Gyorko from the Cardinals is simply another one of those Dodgers moves to leverage their righty/lefty platoon attack.
And the Yankees? Well they absolutely punted on the deadline. No doubt they’ll be resoundingly doused with gasoline and set on fire by New York’s brutal fans and toxic sports social media.
But consider this. The Dodgers and Yankees are in the winning positions they’re in because they have built astoundingly successful organizations. The depth of their 25-man and 40-man rosters is relentless.
So at this point any additions for LA and New York would have to be seen as adding even more frosting on an extremely large cake that’s already covered in frosting. (At this point I need to take a break and have some lunch.)
Getting Traction: the San Francisco Giants and Tampa Bay Rays
You won’t find Tampa Bay and San Francisco on anyone’s Top 5 Trade Deadline Winners lists this week. But both teams made a flurry of the kind of moves that address their immediate needs and sow the seeds for future growth.
When you can do that in the competitive MLB jungle populated by 50+ other smart GMs and Baseball Ops Presidents, you’ve really achieved something.
The players Tampa receive in a series of trades with the Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers, LA Dodgers, and the Giants bring value to Tampa’s current AL East battles and to their future.
From the Brewers Tampa picked up Jesus Aguilar which added the power bat missing in the middle of their line-up. From Miami the Rays further stocked their bullpen and starting staff with RHP Trevor Richards and rightly reliever Nick Anderson.
The San Francisco Giants managed to do two disparate things at the trade deadline.
First, President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi kept the team’s top two fan-branded favorite players, which is exactly what former GMs Bobby Evans and Brian Sabean would have done.
Even after the non-trades, Fangraphs has San Francisco with a 93% chance of not making the 2019 NL playoffs. And somewhere Bobby Evans is doing his fan-branding happy dance.
But I’m also guessing there’s a likelihood that what Zaidi was offered in return for Bumgarner was unacceptable. Moving Bumgarner would have only been possible from a PR standpoint if several MLB-ready names and a couple of prospects came back in a deal. Which was absolutely not going to happen.
The second thing the Giants did by the deadline was a lot more positive.
- There was quality dead-salary shedding in trading RP Mark Melancon and the $18 million owed to him through 2020 to the Atlanta Braves for several throwaway pieces. No doubt Melancon could produce quality innings in a Braves system that’s known for solving pitching mechanics issues.
- There was a high quality prospect pick-up in the trade of pitchers Drew Pomeranz and Ray Black to the Milwaukee Brewers for 2B Mauricio Dubon, 25. Zaidi has been focused on getting Dubon for a while and obviously sees the middle infielder as a future building block.
Pomeranz has found new life as a multi-innings eater from the bullpen, a big need for the Brewers if they hope to catch St. Louis and Chicago. Ray Black gives Milwaukee a solid rebuild project for the future.
- San Francisco created their own reclamation project by picking up 2B Scooter Gennett from the Cincinnati Reds for that famous player to be later named or cash (or maybe a player named Cash).
Gennett has been injured most of the season and he’s only a two month rental, but his previous production makes this a worthwhile roll of the dice.
- Moving RP Sam Dyson to the Minnesota Twins netted a pitching prospect (Kai-Wei Teng) and an outfielder (Jaylin Davis), who both have had injury issues, along with nineteen-year-old minor league RHP Prelander Berroa.
I’m always wary when the Tampa Bay Rays target a young player in a trade, and that unease is manifest in the deal that sent Class A LHP Jacob Lopez from the Giants to Tampa.
This is yet another in a series of trades the Giants have made with the Rays in recent years that might look very bad in a couple of seasons.
Overall, by not dealing Bumgarner and Will Smith the Giants missed a critical opportunity to potentially stock their farm system with a lot of quality talent.
Now Bumgarner will finish the 2019 season at Oracle Park after which he’ll be given a Qualifying Offer by the Giants, followed by his opt out.
Later in the 2019 off-season, San Francisco will eventually get an additional draft pick when Bumgarner signs a multi-year free agent deal with another team.
So this was kind of the best of both worlds for Ops President Farhan Zaidi. The Giants’ easily-stampeded fanbase has been successfully medicated, and the team will enter the 2020 season with a lot more payroll flexibility.
At the same time, 2019 MLB trade deadline also brought San Francisco several potentially valuable minor league pieces they can continue to build around over the next several years.
But the missed opportunity to trade Bumgarner and (especially) Will Smith may haunt San Francisco over the next several seasons.